Thursday, 30 July 2009

California Dreamin'

First of all, a huge thank you to my coach, The Endurance Coach’s Marc Laithwaite (, and my physio, Harris and Ross’ Alan Raw ( I finished Sunday’s San Francisco Marathon in 3 hours and 43 minutes, a full 14 minutes faster than my previous best of 3 hours 57 minutes in Barcelona on 1 March. That’s over 32 seconds a mile faster, every mile, for 26 miles. All of the credit for the improvement must go to Laith and Alan. When I started training with Laith, I had a personal best of 4 hours 52 minutes. To slice 1 hour and 9 minutes off my PB tells you just how good a coach Laith is. I wouldn’t even have been able to get to the start line without Alan’s hard work in sorting out my piriformis and plantar fascia problems, and his invaluable advice on avoiding further injuries. Most marathon runners wouldn’t run more than two races in a year, so with five marathons in eight months, Alan has had his work cut out for him from day one.

An hour to go until the race. See if you can spot who's unhappy at his 3.30am wake up call.

Sunday’s result was such a big relief. I thought that the mountaineering expedition to the Swiss Alps earlier this month had ruined my chances of a good performance. As it turned out, I arrived in the starting pen fully rested and ran smoothly for the full 26.2 miles. I achieved the negative split that I was looking for and kept an even pace throughout. My average minutes per mile in the first, second and third stages of the race were just 1 second apart.

With my Mum and Dad

Alameda turned out to be the perfect location for my training camp. Our house is right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and I can run straight from the front door along the coastline. Perhaps more importantly, it’s on the other side of the bay from San Francisco, so it manages to avoid the fog that sits over the city most days. Having said that, it has been quite chilly. Mark Twain is reputed to have said, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco".

My cousin Melanie and Auntie June travelled from British Columbia and Alberta respectively to join us in California. It was really great to catch up with them and to have their support during the marathon. Many thanks to Mel for all of her help in the build up to the race. As well as joining me for my final training runs around the bay, Mel kindly prepared my meals. This was no mean feat and Mel was astonished at quite how much I was managing to eat. Apparently, the pasta that I ate on the day before the race would have easily fed her husband Ron, and their four boys. Those complex carbohydrates kept me moving at 18 miles, when my legs would have otherwise have gone bang.

The race itself was well organised and followed a fantastic, if hilly, route through the City By The Bay. The race starts near Fisherman’s Wharf, moves north to run forward and back across the Golden Gate Bridge, then descends into Golden Gate Park. You leave the park via the famed Haight Street, home of San Francisco’s flower children during the Summer of Love, before arriving back on the bay for the final few miles to the finish.

The support from the crowd was fantastic. Americans are so enthusiastic. In 1991, I spent the summer working in a pub in Cartmel, in the southern Lake District. On the Saturday of the Cartmel Races, a particularly friendly American chap came into the bar and chatted about how he loved English culture. Having ordered a ginger ale for his wife, he asked me to recommend a typically English drink for him. I suggested 18 pints of lager and received a stern dressing down from the pub landlord.

Three down, two to go. Training for Berlin begins on Monday and I can’t wait. Bring it on!

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 27 July 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 Rest
Wednesday, 29 July 2009 Rest
Thursday, 30 July 2009 Fly to Manchester
Friday, 31 July 2009 Arrive Manchester / Lakeland 100
Saturday, 1 August 2009 Lakeland 100
Sunday, 2 August 2009 Lakeland 100

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004